The Flipside: A Cop’s Advice on How to Deal with Cops


September 14, 2006   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

NEWSFLASH – Cops read blogs.

After out post, A Lawyer’s Advice: How to deal with Cops, we’ve received a ton of correspondence from the law enforcement community. In that message, a lawyer basically advised to keep your mouth shut and not cooperate with cops. In rebuttal, the cops brought up great points and I want to share both sides of the story. This is important because lawyers may have financial motives, not just get you off-the-hook motives.

In this message, I am going to highlight one cop’s emails. This guy has averaged 2 DUI arrests each month for the last 4 years. I asked his permission to publish these things and he agreed although anonymity was a requirement (which I can understand). So, let’s call this Police Advice: How to Deal with Cops.

Remember, as I stated before, I am not providing an opinion on what you should or should not do. Both posts are simply providing information that you can consider prior to making a decision. However, the best decision is obvious – Don’t Drink and Drive and don’t do bad things.

The first point that I found really interesting was:

“The thing that upsets me the most is that the attorney dispensing this advice has nothing to lose and everything to gain from motorists blindly following these instructions. A motorist stopped for suspicion of DUI that follows the instructions will certainly be arrested and need a lawyer, but one that does the tests has the possibility of successfully completing them or getting a warning and a ride home.”

I can see why this is upsetting. Some (not all) lawyers are indeed in it for the money. The more court cases, the more they have a chance to be the defense attorney. Therefore, it’s worth considering that lawyers want you to get into the courtroom more than they want you to get off with a warning or plain old pass the tests.

“In my county, a lawyer specializing in DUI will typically want $3000 up front to even look at the case (additional fees apply if the case goes to a Motion to Suppress hearing, a driver’s license summary suspension hearing, or trial). So if someone was arrested for suspicion of DUI in my jurisdiction and they followed the instructions on the card, here are the immediate costs: $300 cash bond (or $100 plus their driver’s license), $30 processing fee, $500 civil penalty (imposed by ordinance on DUI drivers), $125 tow fee, $3000 lawyer’s fee. Totals up to $3955 before you even get to court.”

Ok. That sounds reasonable. In fact, I got a DUI in 1992 when I was younger and dumber. If anything these costs are low – I paid $6K. I blew a .11 and the limit back then was .10.

“And if no tests are done and the Breathalyzer is refused, the motorist’s driver’s license will be suspended for six months for a first offender, three years for a previous offender.

All police-motorist interactions are videotaped so a conviction without any field sobriety tests being performed is not unheard of. If a conviction is entered, add at least $2500 is fines, court costs, mandatory alcohol counseling, etc.”

This is according to Illinois law but I suspect that Nationwide results are similar.

“Here is what I tell my family and friends (I AM NOT A LAWYER, THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE):

If you drink and drive and get arrested for DUI, do everything the officer says. Take all the tests, take the breathalyzer. On the first court date, meet the prosecutor. Tell him you want to represent yourself and that you’ll plead guilty TODAY in exchange for a rescission of the summary license suspension and a small (say $500) fine. The prosecutor gets to immediately clear a case from his workload, and you get to get on with your life with a hand slap. And no greasy lawyer gets thousands of dollars of your money so you can take a plea six months from now anyway. When all is said and done, you pay $1500 in towing fees, fines, court costs, etc. rather than the $4000-$7000 you’d pay with a lawyer.”

I was very surprised to see that a cop had this advice. Now, there is and always will be a Cop VS. Attorney conflict so I would take this with a grain of salt just like I would take the Lawyer’s advice with some caution. I would love to see some comments from our readers on this point.

“Each judge hears about 150-200 cases per day and only about 10 of those are adjudicated. The rest of the cases are mainly lawyers revolving their cases through on the hopes that the officer won’t show up and the case will get thrown out. It is not uncommon for me to go to court three or four different times on the same case.”

First, don’t ever think you can sweet talk a judge. They are totally immune to emotion in the courtroom. 150-200 cases per day is a ton. Realizing that a good portion may be continuances, no shows, etc., it’s still a lot. The point that’s interesting to me is that 10% get resolved. That means that 90% of the cases keep the lawyers in the money. Again, just something to consider.

If you recall, I mentioned in the last post that I was going on a ride-along with a cop in a week. I called him tonight and specifically asked him:

Q: If you order someone out of a car. Can they say no?

A: ” Sure, they can say no but they are obstructing a peace officer. I can technically pull someone over for speeding and ask them and their passengers to get out of the car. If they refuse, I can bust open the window and drag them out. If they resist further, I can and will charge them with resisting arrest. The only way I could not do this, would be if I were off-duty. Even when I show my badge, if I am off-duty I have no more rights than the common man. The advice that I give people is to always comply if you think you are innocent, not if you think you can fool me. If you are absolutely guilty of something and you know it, stay quiet.”

Updated: Cop A sent me an email indicating that Cop B may be off base.

Your friend is absolutely right about ordering someone out of a car. We have the absolute legal right as peace officers to order the driver and/or passengers into or out of a vehicle for any or no reason. If I asked a driver to step out and he refused, I would forcefully remove him and arrest him for obstruction of a peace officer. Fortunately, this does not happen often.

I will disagree with your friend about staying quiet if you are guilty. If someone is honest with me, and the offense is minor, aka underage drinking, a small amount of marijuana, etc., there is a very good chance they are going to get a warning. If someone lies and I figure it out, the outcome will be decidedly negative for the offender. When I ask, “how much have you had to drink tonight?” or “how much have you smoked?” the game is already over. I know the answers to these questions because I am out 240 nights a year dealing with people.

Nothing irritates me more than someone who lies to my face. It is the most disrespectful thing that someone can do to me and I can’t accept the erosion of respect for the office. This will sound lame, but without respect for the “thin blue line,” there will be lawlessness. The only reason we get along as well as we do as a society is because 99.9% of the people play by the rules 99.9% of the time. Any less than that and there would be chaos.

I really thought it was important to share this information. Everyone has a motive and everyone has a way of interpreting the Letter and Spirit of the Law. That is why we have courts. Again, and this goes without saying, just don’t break the law and you have nothing to worry about.

Other Resources:

Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists (offers $100 reward for Illinois motorists who “phone in” a DUI driver when an arrest is made)
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration



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